Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Apple Cake

I first made this cake when a co-worker of mine a few years ago brought a mess of apples into the office that he had gotten from his uncle's farm in the Central Valley. I found this in the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market cookbook under the title of Karen's Apple Cake. It's more or less a typical carrot cake with grated apples substituted for the carrots minus any nuts and dried fruits. I topped it with a cream cheese frosting that I use with layer cakes like this one.

1 tablespoon sweet butter
1½ cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

3 cups unpeeled tart apples
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Icing:
½ cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
8 ounces natural cream cheese (without gum - NOT Philadelphia brand)
2 cups powdered sugar (granulated will not do here)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Healthy pinch of ground ginger

With the oven preheating to 325°, I greased two 9-inch round cake pans with the butter.
In a large bowl, I then combined the canola oil, sugar, and eggs.

I used a Kitchen Aid mixer on medium speed to mix the ingredients together until it was all well-blended.

I then put all of the dry ingredients into a sifter and sifted them into a bowl, mixing it all together with a wooden spoon.

I put the mixed dry ingredients into the egg/sugar/oil batter stirring with a plastic spatula to blend, making sure to pull in anything sticking on the sides of the bowl. 

I cored the apples (3 small Granny Smiths), then sliced them vertically small enough to add into a food processor opening. I fit the processor with a grater, and added the slices one at a time. The yield was just 3 cups. 

I added the grated apples with the vanilla into the batter  again mixing well with the spatula.

I then poured the batter evenly divided between the two greased pans and put them into the oven.

After about 35 minutes, I tested the cakes by inserting a toothpick into each to see if it would come out dry which it did confirming it was done. Another indication was that the cakes had started to pull away from the sides of the pans. I removed the cakes to cool on a rack.

While the layers were cooling, I cleaned the Kitchen Aid bowl and used it to make the icing.

If you haven't made cream cheese icing, a couple of points I would make.
1. Don't use a gummy cream cheese like Kraft Philadelphia. I've had much better luck using a natural cream cheese like the kind sold in natural food stores. Around here the SF East Bay we can get it easily in either Berkeley Bowl or the El Cerrito Natural Grocery.
2. It's best to get the butter to room temperature. I wouldn't use a microwave to hurry that process up as it simply won't work, at least in my experience. :-P
Slice the butter, and add with the cream cheese into the mixer bowl. Put the mixer on at a low-medium speed and let it do the work of smoothing up the mix. You may want to stop the mixer a few times during the process and scrape down the sides to make sure everything gets well-blended. The whole thing will probably take about 5 minutes or so.

Once the butter and cheese were well-blended, I added in the vanilla extract and continued mixing. Again while still mixing I added the sugar a little at a time. I usually measure it into a Pyrex and let a bit drop in at a time while the mixer is going. Then I added in the ground ginger.

By the time this was done, I had a beautiful icing with which to cover the layers.

I emptied one of layers out to a large serving plate flat side down, meaning I had to turn the first pan upside down onto the plate. I first used a butter knife to go completely around each cake to make sure they were each loose enough to remove easily. I then used a flat frosting knife to ice the top of that first layer.
I removed the second layer and put it on top of the first one, icing the top of it as well as the sides of the entire cake as much as possible.

At this point it's best to set in the frig overnight but in this case I only had time to cool it for a couple of hours which worked fine as well.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Cioppino is an old San Francisco tradition having started when Italian immigrant fisherman used to cook leftover seafood scraps in a tomato-based stew. I've tried several celebrated versions in the local SF restaurants and came up with this recipe, an amalgamation of the best ones I've had.

The first step is to make the stew - a vegetable base in which tomatoes and seafood broth are cooked for 2-3 hours. The seafood is not added until just prior to serving as that which is not already prepared takes very little time to cook. It's best to serve with a rustic bread broiled/toasted pretty dark.

I like to make cioppino in the winter when the local Dungeness crab haul is at its peak as it makes for the best version. I buy a live local crab, boil it, clean out the meat putting aside the remaining empty shells. I use the shells, as well as shrimp shells, fish bones or whatever is available to make a flavorable broth.

Boiling the live crab

Cooked crab

Preparing the crab broth

Preparing the vegetable base
1 live Dungeness crab - 2 pounds
½ pound white fleshed fish cut into 1 inch pieces
½ pound mussels
½ pound medium-sized shrimp peeled and deveined
½ pound scallops
½ pound squid cleaned - tentacles separated and body cut into ½ inch rings

Crab Boil:
Crab whole, live and, hopefully, lively
2 lemons
Herbs - thyme
2 bay leaves

Fill a large pot or stockpot with 6 quarts water, herbs (I use fresh thyme as I have it growing here), and 2 lemons quartered and squeezed into the water. Bring to a boil then add the live crab. (I've also experimented with putting the crab in when it reaches past the lukewarm stage, about 120°F, as I've heard the warm water knocks the crab out thereby preventing the shock to the crab of adding it to a boiling cauldron which supposedly causes for much adrenalin getting released in the crab.)

Cook the crab for 10 minutes then remove, rinsing and soaking in cold water to cool it off. Once cool, break the crab up and pick the meat out into a bowl making sure to throw out the lungs and the crab 'butter'. The butter can be good for some things but not so much in this recipe. 

Seafood broth:
Put the remaining shells, and any other seafood shells, like shrimp shells or fish bones, into a clean stockpot of water and bring to a boil, reduced to simmering for about 30 minutes. I personally don't add seasoning to this broth as I'm trying to just get the flavor of the seafood, especially the fresh crab. After the 30 minutes I strain out the shells and put the water back into the pot. Then I increase the heat to high and reduce the broth to about a third to concentrate the flavor.

Vegetable Base:
1 onion diced
2 carrots diced
1 green bell pepper diced
1 leek - white part diced
2 ribs celery diced
1 fennel diced

In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat then add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, leek, celery, and fennel, cooking until all the vegetables are quite translucent. Make a space in the middle and add the tomato paste to caramelize for a few minutes. 

2 28oz cans Muir Glen whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 cups fish broth
fresh herbs minced - basil, thyme, oregano
2 bay leaves

Drop the contents of the canned tomatoes into the vegetables stirring them in to break up into a sauce. Add the herbs and bay leaves, some salt and pepperoncini. Add about a cup of the hot seafood broth stirring it in as well. Cook for at least a couple of hours at a simmer, adding more broth every 15 minutes or as needed if and when the stew starts to dry out. I keep the pot at least partially uncovered for the most part as I don't mind it reducing leaving room for more of the broth.

½-1 cup dry white wine
3 cloves garlic sliced thinly or pounded to a paste
2 tablespoons olive oil

When the stew is about 20 minutes short of being done, I saute the mussels. In a skillet add the olive oil and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Add the wine and then the mussels, cooking the mussels for a few minutes until they've all opened up. Remove the mussels and set aside.

Final Preparation:
Once the mussels and crab are cooked, it's just a matter of the sequence of adding the fish to the stew just prior to serving. You're basically poaching the seafood that is still not cooked and heating up the mussels and crab by counting time backwards from the service.
10 minutes before serving, add the fish.
5 minutes before, add the shrimp and scallops.
2 minutes before, add the crabmeat, mussels and squid.

Whole loaf crusty Italian bread cut sliced to 1 inch, spread with olive oil, toasted or broiled

Serve in bowls with toast.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Breakfast Burrito

Another great Sunday breakfast tradition for us. We first had these in Santa Fe NM when we travelled there a few years ago. We had it in about 3 different places, asked about how they were made then searched around the Web for some likely recipes.
We pretty much came up with this version on our own but got a specific recipe for the sauce online.

Reconstituting the dried peppers

Straining the sauce

Sauce cooking with the roux

Preparing the egg filling

Red Chile Sauce

8  New Mexico (dried) chiles
4  cups water
2  tablespoons all-purpose flour
2-3 garlic cloves crushed
pinch dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

In a sink cut open the chiles, removing the stems and washing the seeds out under running water. Put the chiles into a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil over high heat.
Allow the chiles to boil for 5 minutes then take them off the heat and allow to steep in the water for 10-15 minutes.
Place the contents of the pan into a blender and puree. Pass the puree through a strainer into a bowl, pressing the chile pieces through with a wooden spoon and scraping under the bottom of the strainer to make sure to get everything usable.
In a medium skillet, make a roux by combining the flour and oil. Saute over low heat for 2 minutes, then add the garlic, chile mixture, oregano and vinegar.  Stir well and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for about 5 days, or it can be frozen for 2 to 3 months.

Burrito Filling

1 small onion diced
1 medium potato cut into 1/2 inch cubes (russet or yukon)

1 Mexican chorizo (try to get the real stuff)
4 eggs
1 cup chili beans (we make our own vegetarian chili)
1 cup corn kernels (canned or frozen)
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 serrano/jalapeno pepper (optional)
red chile powder

1 flour tortilla per serving

To prepare the potato, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat adding 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the cubed potato and cook until everything is golden brown and done. Set aside.
Place a large skillet over medium heat, breaking up the chorizo into the pan. Meanwhile break the eggs up into a bowl stirring with a fork. When the meat is pretty much cooked through stir the eggs thoroughly into the meat until set. Add the corn, chili beans, pepper (if using) and potato into the mixture to heat through. Sprinkle the chili powder on top and remove from heat.

If you are using a gas stove you can heat each tortilla over a flame to warm them just before serving.

To serve:
Open a tortilla on the plate.

Spoon in the filling down the center

and cover over with each end of the tortilla left and right, flipping over in order to complete the burrito.

Spoon over the red chile sauce.